What Doctors Can Learn From Artists and Entrepreneurs

Since leaving medicine, I’ve been an entrepreneur and an independent artist. They are similar pursuits, and both have taught me about the experience of living in creative rather than reactive mode. In the moment you can claim your role in creating the experience you are having right now - as reflected to you by the external circumstances you find yourself in - you begin to take a creative stance. You begin to see yourself differently within the grand puzzle of your world. No longer can you point your finger and your attention outward at “them”, but now you must see the source within you that holds your power to create, choose, and act.

Every artist and every entrepreneur has had to touch this inner place in order to bring a never-before-seen vision into material reality. Whether you name it “imagination” or “vision” or “desire”, every human being has an inner source of creativity. Some of us have placed this in a box in the basement of our consciousness. Maybe we have given up on ever being able to use it in this lifetime. But as long as you are alive, you have this source within you, waiting for you to open the space for it to breathe.

Here are four creative mindsets you have within you, waiting to be awakened and remembered.

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Red Pill or Blue Pill?

MatrixBluePillRedPill There is a scene in the movie, The Matrix, in which the main character Neo is offered a choice between the “red pill” and the “blue pill”.

This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more.

Does it excite you to imagine discovering how deep the rabbit hole goes? Or do you notice a resistance toward leaving the comfort of your current reality?

In the movie, “truth” at first appears as a chilling image of the planet taken over by machines, living off the energy of human beings who are lying unconscious inside jars of gelatinous solvent. Towards the end of the film, it is love received from his beloved which finally wakes Neo up to the reality of his own illusion. That he has believed in everything within the Matrix, and through that belief he has created his own truth. With new eyes touched by love, he sees everything as it actually is: a construct of his own consciousness, where elements take on only the meaning he assigns to them.

Awakening to choice - realizing in any moment that you have a choice - is a moment of connecting to your creative power. Notice that your power to choose always resides inside you. You choose whether to activate your own power by choosing to choose.

No one, no thing, no place, no circumstance outside you can, without your consent, take your power away. You may have been taught to give your power away in the past. Forgive yourself and choose now to be your own power.

The most powerful choice you have is to awaken to the love that you are. Survival and “getting through life” may have hardened you to this truth. You may have learned to protect your core from fully receiving what you feel. By protecting yourself from what you feel, you have denied yourself love. You have refused to shine the light of love on certain aspects of your experience, while insisting on exposing only the so-called acceptable parts. When you encounter a situation that brings you close to touching what you feel, do you stay or do you run?

My experience is I had a strategy of keeping intensely felt experiences at an arm’s length, making it about “them” or “those people” over “there”. I thought I was dealing with these experiences in a "professional" manner by detaching myself, seeing “objectively”, and disconnecting from what I feel. I experienced burnout in a caring profession as a result of the very pattern I had been taught was “professional” and proper.

Only when I was guided, with love and no judgment, to receive what I feel inside me — reversing the pattern of distancing myself from what I feel — did I wake up to the magnitude of the love that I am. I cannot describe in words or quantify this magnitude because it is not a measurable “amount of something”. I can only say that I felt my love, as me, come through me, in a moment of complete awe and flow of both humility and security. I simultaneously felt the smallness of my human self and my human thought forms, and the vastness of my true self as an expression of the love of all-that-is.

I have a vision for the evolution of medicine being led by those physicians who, through burnout, have come to the point where they are no longer able to play the game of denying what they feel. Physicians whose old strategies for survival have run their course. Physicians who have reached a recognition that their visceral knowing contains a truth which, despite being unexplainable, is worthy of their attention and love. Physicians who are prepared to choose the red pill.

I have no plans to teach doctors how to run their practices, or how to define their professional roles. I wish only to point to a door within you, which opens in. Perhaps you have been living your life trying to push outward, when all along you simply never knew that the door opens in. Any true resolution to the current pain in health care lies beyond that door within you. Will you open it?

If your heart says YES, join me on my next free telephone introduction to Live Your Medicine.

When did you last choose numbness?

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We live in a world of outrageous pain. In order to get through most days, we have learned to choose numbness. Even though we have great capacity to feel, we have chosen, consciously or unconsciously, to "not feel", in an attempt to survive.

And we have survived. If you are reading this line right now, you have survived.

But does your heart know that there is more to your life than what you have previously accepted as survival? Have you been searching, asking, running, sitting, and "trying" to move beyond getting by, making do, and struggling?

One of my favorites of the many amazing speakers at the Success 3.0 Summit last October was John Gray. He was hilarious, truthful, profound, and practical. And he said this: "The more conscious you are, the more pain you will feel. When you can actually feel pain, you should receive its gift of telling you that your heart is open to feeling."

We are now able to directly witness, through instantaneous video images, so much pain in our world. We are able to invite it into our homes, our living rooms, our workstations, in living color. What do we do with it all? Where do we put it, between our ten o'clock meeting, our eleven thirty lunch appointment, and picking up the groceries after work?

When, in our daily lives, do we permit ourselves to feel?

What I'm learning in my own experience is there is no such thing as thriving above the line of suppressed feelings. I've tried. I've got my masters' degree at least - and perhaps another doctorate - in trying to live above it all, only feeling so-called positive emotions.

And the result of this, in the past, was I only offered a tiny fraction of my true shining self to my world. I only allowed myself to experience a tiny sliver of my brilliance.

Just this week I had an experience of profound awakening to this. I was walking out my front door in order to film a video for an upcoming new offering. I was taking a big step into "feeling my fear and doing it anyway". I was committed and resolved to do it finally.

Just as I stepped out the door, a young black woman walked up my driveway toward me. I did not have the option to hide in the back of the house, pretending I was not home, which is my standard response to unannounced solicitors. I was now looking directly at her, standing face to face outside my house. So I breathed and looked her in the eyes. I listened to her story. She was walking door-to-door selling magazine subscriptions and a story of hope and empowerment for her formerly incarcerated self and her three children, two of whom she had left in Delaware and the youngest of whom now lived in her care. In her sales training, she had learned to make eye contact, to speak with confidence, and to ask directly for support of her dreams.

I asked her what her dream was. She said she wanted to open an education center to help people like her get back on their feet and have a second chance at life, without relying on a system for handouts or charity.

What I heard was a human being seeking to know her own power, to follow her own vision and to serve as a leader.

And yet, as she went on with the explanation of what she was offering me, things started to get murky. The "points" program she presented was vague, and I began to get the sense that any amount of money I gave her that day would make only a small dent in her overall "goal" of getting promoted within the sales system she was seeking to master.

I began to feel uncomfortable. I felt trapped, unable to hide, and began making plans to "make this situation go away." I decided to negotiate the quickest way to get a transaction done and over with. I mentally decided on an amount of money that I thought would be "enough" to make her go away. I went inside the house, pulled a twenty dollar bill out of my wallet, and came back out. I felt safe because I had not given her my credit card information. If the money was embezzled, I figured "it was only twenty dollars".

I went numb.

She did go away. And yet the feeling of dissatisfaction that I sensed in both of us stayed with me after she left. I made my video and I sat with my feelings about the experience. What had I done?

It was not until the next day that I realized what had happened. As I listened to her story, I was drawn in by her desire for self-empowerment. Yet, the system she was in, as she spoke the words of "wanting" empowerment, was actually disempowering to her. I could not consent wholeheartedly to supporting her in that system. And yet, because I went numb, I also went numb to the true offering I did have to give her in that moment. Sitting inside my house was a stack of flyers for my upcoming New Year New Vision workshop. I teach men and women how to empower themselves through imagination, creation, and action from their hearts' desires. I could have given her a flyer and invited her to come to the workshop, as my gift to her.

Also, the very next day, I was to offer a telephone class - free of charge and open to anyone in the world with access to a phone line - teaching about imagination activation.

I am a facilitator of self-empowerment, and yet I was able to go numb to the very highest of my own offerings in that moment.

How much of a difference would it have made for this young woman to receive these invitations to participate in actively being empowered, rather than remaining in a system that teaches her that she must earn her power by rising up the ranks determined by others?

I don't know if she would have come to the events even if I had offered her the invitation. That's not the point. The point is observing how I hide, when I am not fully feeling my own fears of rejection. By denying and suppressing my own feelings, I consented to this woman's own fears of rejection. I kept the status quo alive, because it seemed easier. And twenty dollars seemed a small price to pay.

How many times a day do we do something similar? How many times a day do we trade "doing what's easier" to "make this situation go away" over fully loving what we feel, and offering our highest gifts in service to what we see, hear, or experience?

How would our world be different if we activated the awareness to make a different choice?

It's important to point out that I am not saying I did the "wrong" thing by choosing the twenty dollars. Transcending ideas of "right and wrong" is one of the most profound teachings I am putting into practice now in my life. I love myself for what I was able to do in the moment and it's OK. However, now that I see my highest self and who I AM when my highest self is fully present, I recommit to choosing from my I AM presence, now and continuously.

If you remember when you last chose numbness, it means you are awakening to your feeling. You are remembering what you feel again. Congratulations.

It's a brand new day.

Exercise Your Write To Be Free

Photo by Jeffrey James Pacres https://www.flickr.com/photos/jjpacres/ I rarely share client stories, but a recent experience is birthing a whole new way of working for me. I just finished a 30-day writing experiment with a physician client who is just starting out on a brand new path. Having already found the courage to leave his medical practice and head into the open space of the unknown, we worked on rekindling a secret dream he's held for a long time, maybe his whole life: writing.

He always wanted to try writing, but never did because he had a belief it was too impractical and was no way to make a living. Yet he knew he had stories to share, and ones that would help others if he did.

I wanted to hear these stories myself. I was curious what touched him so deeply about his experiences in medicine. I knew that in hearing these stories, we could both experience a healing journey.

So I came up with this idea, which I had never done with a client before: a writing experiment. The assignment was to write daily for ten minutes a day, thirty days in a row. Then send that writing to me, which I read every day. Mostly we let the process run itself, but we had two phone conversations during the month, once to check in and then again to review the entire process.

I knew that a small, daily commitment done over a sustained period of time would lead to something. A new habit at the very least. An awakened sense of hope and creativity I envisioned as possible.

What I didn't expect was the vast territory we would cover in those ten minutes of daily writing each day. Not only did I learn from my client's deep minings that occurred from this type of reflection, but I heard accounts of key moments, important feelings, and long-held beliefs that it might have taken months to get to with traditional weekly phone coaching calls. In timed writing, you get to the heart of the matter quickly. You can try to dance around, squirm a bit, but the hand keeps moving and the clock keeps ticking, and something gets said that has juice to it, even if at the very end.

And when you have a curious, compassionate witness, who wants to hear more, and will ask you questions and deliver you the next prompt to inspire more writing, it unfolds with surprising beauty.

It was so beautiful that we are continuing the process for another thirty days, this time including a few additional daily and weekly practices like meditation and art-making (yes! eek! art!). And now, I want to offer this powerful experience to you.

First, here is the practice, which you can do entirely for free on your own. Form a group of friends and do this together. It could, in my client's words, be a "life-altering experience".

The practice:

  1. Choose a start date. Why not tomorrow?
  2. Choose a time and place you will do your writing every day for the next thirty days. Yes, you need to think about this in advance, or it will not happen.
  3. Choose a pen and notebook that you LOVE, and that you will use only for this writing practice. You can use the computer too if you must, but I highly encourage the use of pen and paper for this. There are enough reasons we are called to the computer, and not enough good reasons to go manual these days. Here's one.
  4. Get a timer. Most phones have a timer app. Or use a good old-fashioned egg timer or stopwatch or alarm.
  5. Set the timer for 10 minutes. When you sit down to write, you start the timer. When the timer starts, your hand starts moving across the page. You don't stop. You don't pick the pen up off the paper. You are not thinking. You are letting your hand move, letting it lead the process. You don't edit grammatical or spelling errors. Don't cross anything out. Just keep writing. Lose control. See what happens. Don't have a plan.
  6. When the timer goes off, you stop. That's it. Pick your hand up off the paper. Close your notebook. Go do something else. This is important, too. Give yourself an endpoint that is defined.
  7. The next day, repeat.
  8. And repeat again and again for thirty days.

The page serves as a mirror to our present state, in a beautifully unedited and raw form. We get to see inside ourselves in a way we probably don't look for on our own. Our minds are too busy arranging things. Or we're reacting or responding to something outside ourselves.

With this form of writing (which is influenced and inspired by several of my favorite creativity teachers), we come into contact with the reality of the present moment, and how raw and fresh and changing it is. With practice, we also begin to create a space for ourselves to witness what is. To be OK with whatever shows up on the page. To not always be meeting some idea of an expectation. To let go of an agenda and trust, even if only for ten minutes a day.

And all of this, again in my client's words, could lead to "a whole new world opening up".

You can totally do this effectively on your own as a practice. There are great books that speak to the depth of what this can uncover, and provide you with pages and pages of prompts to go far and wild.

But if you want to work one-on-one with me, receive weekly written responses to your writing (I am not an editor or a coach or a critic, but a supportive, curious listener who tells you when I want to hear more), and have two phone conversations during your thirty-day process (one brief check-in after week one, and another full-length conversation at the end), then I am offering the opportunity for a limited number of individual clients, starting October 15th.

I've learned this about myself during the past few years: I don't do online forums, and I don't do auto-responder emails. I thrive in one-on-one interactions. According to the online marketing experts, this breaks all the rules of becoming a rock-star millionaire business owner. But that doesn't faze me. I'm following the bliss of what I know to be an extremely potent process, which is in alignment with everything I know from experience to be valuable to the recovery of the soul.

Here's how to join me in October.

Advice Versus Coaching

Have you ever sought someone's advice, and then realized halfway into the conversation that you really didn't want them to tell you what to do? Or have you ever followed someone's advice, which never quite felt right to you, but they were in a position of authority or had done it themselves before, and you didn't know how to get out of it?

Have you ever wished you had more trust in yourself, and didn't need to rely so much on advice from other people?

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It's been ten years now since I've set foot in a traditional academic institution. Yesterday I stood inside the walls of a venerable one right here in my own backyard.

And it struck me that there is A LOT of "advising" going on at the formative stages of a lot of smart people's lives. A lot of people who are very curious, very bright, very capable, and very imaginative. But who just don't know. So they ask. They seek advice.

And what do they get? Well, what typically surrounds them in these places of academic prestige are a lot of people who got there by playing a certain game. They navigated a particular system, they overcame their own particular obstacles, and they achieved a certain status. Usually if they are in a position of enough authority to merit students' seeking their opinions, they've hung on to this status over a period of years. They've done the work of making all the right people happy in all the right places. They consulted the rule books, they found out what was expected of them, and they met those expectations.

They have seen the world through one particular lens.

This is perfect advising for someone who wants to experience life through that particular lens, and to find out what hoop is to be jumped through next. If you're asking, "How high must I jump?" and "Where is the next hurdle?", these advisors are perfectly prepared to tell you the answer.

But there's a different kind of questioning that occurs for all of us at some point in our lives. Perhaps even at several points in our lives.

Questions That Have No Right To Go Away

We come up against questions in our hearts, questions that ultimately ask us to test how much we trust ourselves, and invite us to grow into the next version of ourselves.

"tiny but frightening requests, conceived out of nowhere but in this place beginning to lead everywhere. Requests to stop what you are doing right now, and to stop what you are becoming while you do it."

- from "Sometimes", by David Whyte

In these moments, some part of us actually knows the answer and knows what we must do.

The questions appear at the most inopportune times. We're "busy" doing something else. There's "not enough time". We're "supposed to" be focused on something we believe to be more important.

But the questions don't go away. They pull at us, beckoning us to pay attention to the part of us we'd rather be able to ignore.

It poses a dilemma. Should we go this way or that? Should we keep going as if everything is "normal" or actually stay with the question and listen to what it brings?

This is when we might seek advice from others.

And this is where knowing the difference between "advice" and "coaching" can save your life.

I've received a lot of advice in my lifetime. I can remember these pieces of advice quite vividly.

Some Advice I Once Received

For example, when I had made the decision in my heart that I would not be doing a residency after medical school, I started to do what all the career guides told me to do: informational interviews.

As I told people what I intended to do, I encountered a lot of advice. "Why don't you at least do an internship? Then you'll have more options, because at least you'll have a license."

These conversations never seemed that helpful to me, because I felt like my desires were being dismissed as naive, and that the risks I felt called to undertake were insurmountable (which I found insulting). As I continued to talk to more people, I heard more advice.

From one person: "Why don't you at least finish a residency in SOMEthing? You know, general internal medicine, something like that. Then at least you'll have the credibility of being able to practice something."

From another: "If you liked cardiology in medical school, why don't you at least get trained as a cardiologist? Then you'll have so many more contacts and you'll be able to get so much more done."

And another: "Well, why don't you at least practice for a few years, get some money and respect under your belt before you go off and do your little dream? Then at least you'll have experience."

And yet another: "Why don't you wait until you retire to do 'fun' things like following your heart and doing what you love? Then at least you'll have lived a full life before you go and throw it all away."

What I realized is that each of the people who gave me advice was only speaking from their own experiences and beliefs. None of them had actually done what I was going to do, for the reasons I was doing it. And none were actually helping me to listen to the voice of my heart, which was the one posing these questions.

I ended up listening to a lot of different advice and following no one's, instead creating my own opportunities through willingness and determination. I am forever thankful for my own intuition that guided me to follow something inside me, despite advice to the contrary.

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Fast forward ten years.

I've created many more opportunities by following my own intuition, and tapping that same willingness and determination, to move in the direction most aligned with my heart's greatest desire. Now that I have opened space in my life, space in my mind, space in my body, and space in my heart, to receive guidance, it just keeps flooding in. I don't ask people what to do. I don't tell people what to do.

I have since also lived the life of trying to gain fulfillment from seeing other people follow my advice. I thought I was doing the right thing, but I would always encounter an aspect of someone else that my experience could not comprehend, that my best knowledge could not penetrate. This was before I trained as a coach. I had no tools at the time to help other people access a deeper part of their own wisdom, to help them find the keys to their own locked doors. I was giving advice, where people were in great need of coaching. I just didn't know how to at the time.

Coaching Helps You Follow Your Own Advice...The Kind You've Ignored For Too Long In Favor Of Others'

The kind of reward I received from advice-giving pales in comparison to the nourishment that is provided by coaching. As a coach, I get to be free, gently observing the process of a person finally doing exactly what their hearts have always been telling them to do. I get to share in their moments of joy in discovering that the answers they sought outside for so long, in so many ways, were already inside them, waiting to be decoded.

In short, as a coach I get to watch people finally follow their own advice!

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There is nothing more beautiful in this world than to witness a person free themselves, and become enlivened by the light inside them, dancing to the music within them.

I recognize the feeling of a person's truest longing spoken out loud. I recognize the pain of staying silent and hidden for too many years. I recognize the joy of meeting yourself again, of looking yourself in the mirror with love and kindness.

This is not what comes from taking someone else's advice. This is true learning and growth. This is the drink of water I'd always been thirsty for, but never knew existed.

So the next time you ask someone for advice, listen to them very closely. And then ask yourself, "Does this feel more freeing? Or more constraining?" Any advice that does not bring you more alive in your heart is not advice for you to follow.

Follow your freedom. It is the voice of your divinity speaking to you.

Come, take a drink with me. Be free.

Photo credits: University campus by Jules Silver, Butterfly by Harald Hoyer, both used under a Creative Commons license

News news news

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"One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began"

- Mary Oliver, "The Journey"

Today is that day for me.

Maybe it was the flyer announcing my talk at Stanford Medical School in a few weeks (finally making it feel real...and making me feel proud of the creative thinking I've been doing on this subject).

Maybe it was seeing the pile of STUFF in my house, moved out of the Cradle of Manifestation, prompting me to revisit what's really taking up the space in my drawers and closets.

Maybe it was the invitation to have dinner this Friday with a couple of doctors who have transitioned out of medicine themselves (making me feel one step closer to finding My People).

Maybe it was finally telling the truth out loud to myself and to a compassionate witness about what I feel in my heart (and experiencing the expansion that came with it).

Maybe it was all of the above.

Whatever it was, I finally know what I need to do, even though I have no idea how it's going to play out or if anyone will even care. But I know enough to trust this particular feeling of knowing. It's not a rational linear mind kind of knowing. It's a whole body energy clearing kind of knowing.

And I can't wait to share the news with you!

So what IS new?

- My monthly meetup in Silicon Valley, "Find Your Own Song" - the first Tuesday of every month at 7pm, at rotating locations. Join the meetup group to get updates>>

- My physician burnout and wellness resources page - I'll be adding to this, but it's a great place to start if you're curious about the problem, the stories of real physicians, and what people are doing about it. Visit the resource page here>>

- All new Name Your Price coaching - I'm most giddy and excited about this brand new experiment, launching next week. I just want to get more coaching love out there. I remember when I had no idea what coaching was, and didn't believe it could do anything for me, until I actually experienced it myself. So I want to pass on that gift to you! For two hours a week, I'll be offering my services on a first-come, first-served basis, and you get to name your own price. Perfect for those of you who are curious about coaching and open to it, but just not ready to make the commitment to one of my other individual coaching options right now. Learn more about it here>>

- The Whole Person Retreat for Women - Saturday April 9th at Stillheart Institute in Woodside, CA. I'm guest facilitating music improvisation and sound healing as part of an enriching day with the wonderful women Eliska Meyers and Johanna Beyer. Find out more details here>>

That's all for now. After some good time and space appreciating the openness, it's nice to witness the arrival of what's next. Hope to see and hear from you soon!